Miners, University of Arizona students, a volunteer firefighter, a doctor, a teacher and a lawyer were among the more than 40 Southern Arizonans killed. These are a few of their stories.
The fountain on the west side of Old Main at the University of Arizona is a favorite spot for celebratory graduation photos, but its origin is anything but joyful. The fountain was built in 1920 in memory of 13 students who died in the war. It was a gift of the uncle of one of them, Tucsonan Alex Tindolph Berger.
Berger enlisted in the Marines and went overseas in June 1918. He was wounded the next month in the one of the first battles of the American Expeditionary Forces in France. His family didn't hear from him after that. Finally, in November the Red Cross told his parents that he'd been injured. The family heard nothing more until February 1919 when the war department said he was dead. Even then, his parents were uncertain. "Alex Berger Reported Killed in Action but There's Chance of Error," a headline in the Arizona Daily Star reported. The story explained that the government message listed his name as Alex "S." Berger, when in fact his middle initial was "T." His father asked the government for clarification and held out hope that his son was alive. He was not.
Confusion, at first, also surrounded the death of Bisbee lawyer Eustace Percival Dupen, the Bisbee Daily Review reported. The telegram sent to his parents said he died in a truck accident. They believed Eustace was in Paris working as an interpreter. But they had a second son, Anthony, who was also in the Army and had written home six weeks earlier saying that he was a truck driver. The family asked for further information and soon learned that it was, indeed, private Eustace who died.
Bisbee and its sister towns of Warren and Lowell sent large numbers of men off to war because mining was booming and the industry employed many men of service age. In June 1917, when men ages 21 through 30 had to register for the draft, about 3,000 signed papers in Cochise County. A large number who registered at Bisbee City Hall were Mexicans, "many of whom could not speak a word of English," the Daily Review reported.
By my count, at least 21 men from Cochise County died in the war. That's based on a list of 42 Southern Arizonans the Arizona Daily Star's Johanna Eubank compiled in 2001.
-- David F. Campbell had been head oiler at the Sacramento shaft of Bisbee's Copper Queen mine before he enlisted in the Army. He was wounded in battle and died in an American hospital in France.
-- Pvt. George Cameron worked at the Czar mine in Bisbee until he enlisted in the fall of 1917. He died in the battle of the Argonne forest.
-- Corporal Robert Frederick Hilburn was 23 when he died in France. He was from Pirtleville.
-- Samuel Claude Havin, from Cochise Stronghold, was in the ambulance corps in France when he died of pneumonia.
-- Pvt. Niles H. Galusha worked at several Bisbee businesses before he joined Company F, 18th Engineers. He drowned in France.
-- Lt. Jerome McKay Leonard lived in Bisbee and later in Douglas, where he was the city health officer. He was a physician. The government said he was killed in action.
-- Pvt. Clay McKnight lived on a ranch with his parents at Pearce and walked five miles to work at the Commonwealth mine. He was killed in 1918 but a funeral wasn't held until 1921. It was then that the Bisbee Daily Review reported the awful particulars of McKnight's death. He was with Company H of the 30th Infantry when it and Company G were ordered to establish a bridgehead near a French river. "In this charge he was caught in a terrible barrage and was gassed. In the two companies engaged in this charge there were 308 casualties, evidence of a fearful slaughter," the newspaper reported. He died five days later.
The front page of the Graham Guardian in Safford reported the death of two local men on the same day in 1918. Sgt. Charles H. Murphy managed the Safford Market and was assistant chief of the volunteer fire department before he shipped out to France, where he died of pneumonia. He wrote his last letter home from a dugout on the firing line. Lt. Joseph F. Swift spent his boyhood in Safford, went to Los Angeles for high school, then returned as the manual training teacher at Safford High School. He was killed in the battle of the Argonne Forest.
When I visited the memorial fountain at Old Main today, I was pleased to see several small flags around the perimeter. I believe UA students who died in the war are also honored on a plaque in the basement rotunda of the Student Union, but that space was locked today and I could not double check.
I am sorry to report that there's no flag today at the World War I memorial on South Sixth Avenue downtown. As you can see, the base of the pole is rusting away. It was erected at Armory Park in 1949 by the Woodmen of the World, a fraternal organization. The Tucson High band played at the dedication, which was attended by mayor E.T. Houston.
I will close this Memorial Day remembrance with the stories of Tucsonans Alfredo Salgado and Ramon Burruel.
Pvt. Salgado was wounded on the western front and died in a hospital, a brief death notice in the Star reported. He did not know that his wife had died three months earlier. They left behind a six-month-old son.
Pvt. Burruel married Anita Rios on Aug. 31, 1917. Five weeks later, "the young bridegroom marched away to war," the Star said. He was killed in action on Sept. 5, 1918 and is buried at the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery. Anita Burruel visited his grave in 1930 at the invitation of the government, which paid for widows and mothers to travel there. The Star described the trip as "the gracious gesture of a grateful nation."